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Quotable Quotes: Pro Audio People Say The Darndest Things

A compilation of insightful comments that have appeared on the pages of ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International over the years...

A column (here) by Karl Winkler referencing “best practices” got me thinking about the many (too many to count, in fact) insightful comments that have appeared on the pages of ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International over the years. It lead to a weekend of reading more than a hundred archived articles, and from them, I’ve drawn the following quotes about the world of pro audio.

“People don’t come to hear me mix, they come to hear the act. I want to present artists as they are. Hopefully, I’m just turning up what they’re doing.” – Dave Natale, FOH engineer

“There will always be a desire for good sound and a general lack of understanding in attaining it. So not everybody will just be able to throw together a sound system with any sort of good or even mediocre results.” – Jim Long, Electro-Voice

“The key is staying calm and knowing the technology as thoroughly as possible. Don’t take on more tasks if you can’t handle them, and don’t sacrifice quality for ego.” – Samantha Potter, mix engineer/system tech, also works with Allen & Heath

“It depends.” – Pat Brown, SynAudCon

“Mixing sound in the live realm is not rocket science. In fact, it’s probably closer to voodoo.” – Dave Rat, FOH engineer, Rat Sound

“Push through the weird and scary place, past your mind and emotions, into the unknown. You won’t regret it.” – Beckie Campbell, owner, B4 Media Production 

“They’re just tools, not a magic safety net. No single person who wants to truly succeed as a mixer can do it by relying on a machine.” – Wayne Pauley, mix engineer

“Sonic excellence occurs when you capitalize on the best opportunities for reinforcing the sound that’s already being created onstage. Do that, and then you don’t have to work so hard the rest of the time.” – Brett “Scoop” Blanden, FOH engineer

“You can use shabby equipment like cassette players or you can use high-end equipment, but it’s all about ideas, and ideas don’t rely as much on technology as you might think.” – Christopher Shutt, theatre sound designer

“So instead of concentrating on ‘digital versus analog’ and whether or not our microphones reproduce signals up past 50 kHz, let’s worry about what really matters: good sound in the mid-band.” – Karl Winkler, columnist and VP at Lectrosonics

“I find that a compressor with a brickwall limiter allows you to resume your relaxation.” – The Old Soundman

“Tom (Petty) and the band have taught me over time that there’s just as much skill in revealing something as there is in bringing something up. It’s not always about louder, it might be a matter of pulling something back so something else shines through.” – Robert Scovill, FOH engineer

“Everybody around me said I couldn’t do this. It was like, ‘You can’t’ or ‘You’ll never be in the music industry.’ But whenever anybody says I can’t do something, that’s the driver for me to run with it. And I did.” – Kim Watson, long-time audio professional

“My job was to get a balance and be invisible, to be a servant of the music and provide the technology to establish an emotional connection between the musicians and audience.” – Bryan Bell, FOH engineer

“When I’m asked how I got into this business, I tell them that I said yes to the wrong people.” – Mick Whelan, long-time audio professional now with TW AUDiO

“If you want to make a million in audio, you know how you do it? Start with two million.” – Ryan Jenkins, owner, Arizona Concert Sound Solutions

“I think I’ve done close to 3,000 shows with the guy (Rod Stewart), so we’re hoping we’re going to get it right sooner rather than later.” – Lars Brogaard, FOH engineer

“I’m constantly awed by how music has the power to shift, even completely transform, the way we feel. Those vibrations of air… to get poetic about it, music is the energy of our universe in ecstatic motion.” – Becky Pell, monitor engineer

“I never thought about getting into audio. I wanted to be a rock star.” – Tim Cain, co-owner, Gemini LSV

“There are two approaches to mixing monitors: the ‘taking it to a fine art’ approach, and the boxing gloves approach.” – Michael Prowda, monitor engineer

“It’s way easier to please 10,000 people than five musicians.” – Sean Sturge, monitor engineer

“Not your show. Not my show. Our show. We all want the same thing even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We all want it to go great and for the audience to have a great time. That’s our primary directive.” – Meegan Holmes, mix engineer

“At the end of the day, the guy sitting in the third row doesn’t care how long it took to hang the PA, or how light weight it is. He just wants it to sound good, and so do I.” – Kevin Margolin, co-founder, Atomic Professional Audio

“Anybody can provide equipment; it’s the way you implement that equipment and the attitude you have that makes for a successful event.” – TC Furlong, founder/owner, TC Furlong

“At a given moment, I may be upset at the fact I’m having to do a parking lot party loadout while it’s snowing or that my points took an extra hour because rigging in the building is difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.” – Rachael Moser, system engineer, Clair Global

“As a practitioner of this craft you have to simultaneously understand your equipment and your input—meaning the artist on stage or whatever the content is—as well as who is listening to the results of your work.” – David Scheirman, mix engineer/system consultant

“It can all be accomplished as long as we don’t confine ourselves to the self-imposed limitations inherent in viewing one technique as ‘right’ and all others as ‘wrong’.” – James Cadwallader, mix engineer

“One of my most important roles is to ensure that even if every instrument in the band is frozen solid, a block of ice, that there’s still ceremonial music.” – Karl Jackson, chief audio technician, United States Marine Band

“I tell my daughter, and all kids, to find something that they love and stay there. Just do it. Some day all of that hard work, passion, loyalty and everything you’ve put into it will reward you – not always financially, but usually – and besides, everything in life ain’t always about money anyway.” – Dave Shadoan, owner, Sound Image

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed if someone’s unhappy with the sound on stage. You need to be able to take a breath, think about what’s being asking of you and how to achieve that.” Christina Moon, monitor engineer

“Two hard-earned observations: 1) No matter how much I yell at the crew, it never makes it sound better; 2) If I act like there’s a huge problem, people will know there’s a huge problem.” – Dave Rat, FOH engineer, Rat Sound

“This business is not for the squeamish. You can get squashed like a bug, but if you can survive it, you can make a comfortable living, you can work half the year. You’ve just got to pay attention and stay out of jail.” – Jim “Redford” Sanders, mix engineer

“What is the most important thing in the band to amplify? OK, put that up. What is the next most important thing? Now put that up. Continue in that mode until – and this is very important – things start sounding cluttered and unclear. Then back up, to the point when it was still clear, and stop right there.” – The Old Soundman

“I like things people say you can’t do.” – Tom Danley, Danley Sound Labs

“Young guys ask me ‘what do I need to do to do what you do?’ And I tell them ‘first, learn to listen’.” – Stan Miller, FOH engineer

“Some people see every other company in the world as competition, as in, ‘they’re my enemy.’ But I see them as trying to live their dreams like I’m living mine.” – Mike Bourne, owner, All-Star Audio Systems

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of fine people in the industry who really have set the pace for a long time and I feel very fortunate. You learn from every person that you work with, particularly when you’re building your knowledge base and skills, which really doesn’t ever end. ” – Suzy Mucciarone, veteran multi-disciplined audio professional

“The rules of touring are simple. Show up, do your job well, and don’t be a jerk. You’re living in a submarine with a bunch of other people. You’ve got to be enjoyable to be around.” – Jamie Anderson, Rational Acoustics

“I advise anyone getting into the business to be aware of their (own) motives – if you think you’re going to have a bunch of fun, you’re right, but you’re also signing up for a lot of hard work. If you find audio scientifically engaging, don’t doubt yourself. Go for it, but ask questions and more questions. That’s how I learned. But check your motives first.” – Rebecca Wilson, mix engineer

“The shows are a bitch, and then you coil cables.” – The Old Soundman

“That’s how we all learned in those days – on the road. We were definitely making it up as we went along.” – Mike Scarfe, MHA Audio

“If you’re not going to jump in the swimming pool, you’re not going to find the best way to swim. And if you’re not on the road, people think you’re not necessarily designing solutions for their situations.” – Mick Whelan, long-time audio professional now with TW AUDiO

“Whatever sounds good on a particular instrument on a particular day, we move forward with that.” – George Cowan, FOH engineer

“If something happens on stage and you’re working for the president of the United States, you want to walk calmly, with authority, and go up and fix it. You don’t want to run, because the Secret Service will shoot you in the ass.” – Mike Bourne, All-Star Audio Systems

“If you can pull a good mix together with whatever gear you’ve got in any kind of situation, you’ll be so much more valuable than someone who can only use one desk or can only make it sound good when you’ve got the best gear and thousands of dollars in plugins.” – Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato, FOH engineer

“I’ve done everything from schlepping gear, to setting it up, to designing it, to mixing on it. I like it all. It’s a good day’s work.” – Phil Scobee, mix engineer/system consultant

“You only get one shot to give them a positive experience.” – David Scheirman, mix engineer/system consultant

“When you turn up the kick in a large arena with a massive PA, it’s something you never forget. Once you’ve mixed, you always want to mix.” – Dave Natale, FOH engineer

“To me the greatest compliment a band can pay you is to rehire you.” – Deb Hutchins, monitor engineer

“I look at it this way. There’s 24 hours in the day, and sometimes 22 of them can suck pretty good. However, when the lights go down and the people stand up and start screaming, I get two hours that make it all worth it.” – Jim “Redford” Sanders, FOH engineer

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